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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Comparative Religion

Dave at Garfield Ridge has an interesting post about the dedication of mainstream Christianity as compared to that of Muslims.


"Yes, many of us believe in a higher power, and many believe in Jesus
Christ, and many even pray each day. But who among us would think that
blasphemy or heresy still deserves punishment? The bottom line is,
what once could get you ostracized or even killed in the West won't even
get you condemned nowadays-- worse, it may even get you praised. Even
accounting for the more literal interpretation of Islam, that sort of
laissez-faire attitude towards belief does not exist in the Islamic
world (at least not for non-Muslims-- obviously, all sorts of hypocrisy
exists within the Islamic world)."

This is something I have thought about for years, and have a tendency to agree with him. By and large, on outward appearance, that is, it seems as though followers of Islam (generally speaking) are much more devout than most people in the west who claim the title of "Christian". But is it just outward appearance? After all, Christians do not believe in blowing themselves up and taking innocent lives with them as being a moral and just thing to do. Therefore, an Islamic act of martyrdom is much more fanciful than anything a Christian will probably ever act out as a display of religious devotion. This makes it difficult to compare the two, in terms of "dedication". Perhaps these acts of martyrdom are nothing more than the delusional results of brainwashing, and really show nothing in terms of how well they practice their religion. This of course is not to say that "suicide bombing" is the only way they act upon their belief, just the most noticeable.

Part of me, however, has a hard time accepting that just because they pray in the open five times a day and burn down buildings because one of their prophets was desecrated that they are somehow more religious than those of us in the West. Every religion has different ways of expressing itself according to it's own dogma, and to compare them based on outward appearances becomes increasingly difficult the more time one spends on the subject.

At any rate, I will leave it at that for now, as I encourage you to read his whole post and share your thoughts. This is a topic that I'm sure will be visited upon many times here.

9 comments:

Kell said...

CAN OF WORMS. A Big fat one.

Couple of things...

First, Islam as a belief does not condone this violence. "Islamists" is a name that is used when speaking of those that burn buildings, and kill and wound and maim in the name of their religion. The West tends to lump all Muslims together, just as they think everyone from Kentucky has the hots for a blood relative. (No offense to Muslims or Kentuckians.)

Second, I don't think we are weaker in our beliefs, I think that those that pray and believe in God do so as strongly as Muslims, just in a different way. We attend church and thank Him for blessings. We call on Him for peace and strength. We say quiet prayers as needed. Those that have faith know that God is going to take care of those that are blasphemers and those that defile Him. We don't feel obligation to do so in His name.

The masses have evolved and our freedoms have changed how we respond to our beliefs. Those freedoms aren’t as prevalent in devout Muslim societies as it is in the Western culture. That is the difference.

I don’t even know if the show is still on... but the director/ writer/ actor that gave us “Super Size Me” had a television series called 30 Days. For 30 Days some type of action, lifestyle change, or immersion would be filmed and discussed. I caught a couple of episodes... one followed a Homophobic Midwestern Devout Christian as he moved in with and shared a living space with an openly gay man in San Francisco. Amazing culture shock that then leads to acceptance as his mid expanded. It was good stuff... I digress... they had one episode that placed an extremely religious man in the home of a Muslim family in a very large Muslim community in, I believe, Vermont. I learned so much about the Muslim religion in such a short show... it made me realize how much of our knowledge of Muslims comes from the coverage of the extremists and the Islamists that are not representative of the Muslim nation. (This was a side bar to my post and not really relevant. But what are you going to do... take away my birthday? LOL)

Mr. Twisted said...

Kell - I agree with you that there are a good number of Christians who's faith is every bit as strong as any Muslims. You brought up an excellent point that much of a Christians devotion is done privately. I wonder, however, how many would hold to their beliefs during severe adversity. It's easy when things are going well, not so much when they aren't.

As for the Muslim religion and "Islamic fundamentalists", unfortunately, there is a pretty strong case to be made that the Quran *does* advocate violence - "Kill the Mushrikan [pagans]wherever you find them, and capture and besiege them, and lie and wait for them in each and every ambush" (Surah 9:5). This was part of Muhammads "new revelation" when he set out to declare jihad on all non-believers to try and convert them.
When Muhammad started out, he was peaceful (as indicated by early Quran writings) and within a few years he had moved more toward "conversion by the sword".

Does this mean that all Muslims advocate violence? Absolutely not, but it brings into perspective why a good portion of them do.

Kell said...

Yes...... BUT... the Bible also carries references to behaviors that we don't emulate. There are people in the US that will kill a physician in the name of the Bible; does that make them the exception or the rule? There are numerous passages in the Bible that directly contradicts each other, why would the Quran be any different? You can go to a church in an openly gay neighborhood and the minister will read scripture that allows and advocates their lifestyle. You can go to a church in the Bible Belt and from the same Bible you can hear a minister read passages that say every homosexual will burn in Hell. I know that this is not the same situation, but I feel that most any text can be interpreted in any fashion to suit the intention of the reader.

And as far as devotion through diversity? I think it gets stronger, not weaker. We may question more, but we turn to Him more frequently.

Jonathan Scott said...

I have a lot of admirataion for the large underground churches in China and North Korea. There's not a lot known about them, other than that they have had massive growth despite arrests and executions. I do believe that many people in our culture would fall apart under that kind of adversity. We haven't known true hardship for several generations.

Just my musings. I need to think about all this before I can add my official two cents. Mr Twisted and Kell- very impressed with your ability to discuss an issue in such depth without veering off topic. This issue is multi-dimensional, in that we all believe in personal freedom, but we also believe in a set of absolutes. Man... I need to go to the gym right now... if I keep yammering I'll end up spewing some nonesense.

cuz said...

""""I feel that most any text can be interpreted in any fashion to suit the intention of the reader."""

That pretty much sums up my thoughts on most religions
J.

Mr. Twisted said...

HOWEVER (always have to butt in with another comment, don't I), I think the issue here is religious *devotion*, not interpretation. Are Muslims and followers of Islam more devoted, as a whole, than those of Christianity? A large portion of the world believes that they are. I am not here to agree with them, I am simply pointing something out that a good number of people believe, and wonder why that is the case.
No one is worried about upsetting a large group of Christians, yet nearly everyone is catering to the Muslim community by trying to be "PC". Is this justified? And if so, why? Or if not, why not?

Kell said...

Twist... you always have to come back, don't ya? Run out of Crisco?

(Two separate strings of thought.)
No. I don't think they are more devout. I think in ANY religion you can find unbelievable rock solid devotion and those that try it on for size and move on.

I think people are more worried about upsetting the Muslim community based on the actions of a small percentage of Muslim followers. Those actions are loud and noticeable. This is not a PC issue; it is the perception of possible retaliation. Raise your hand if you are willing to disagree with and then stand in between Eric Rudolph and a Pro Choice clinic? If Christians had the number of followers that make the news because of their actions, that Islamists have, the public opinion of us would change.

~E said...

Some 'off the cuff' remarks... When people compare today's Islamists to Christians, making the moral judgment that Christians are morally superior because they don't condone violence to advocate/defend their religion, I bring up the Dark Ages/Crusades/Inquisition. The most desolate period of human history stemmed from an entrenched religious fervor that used violence to advance its agenda. That time period can be analyzed as a schism between diff. sects of Christianity, namely Catholicism and Protestantism. I'm sure the Protestant martyrs would beg to differ that they were less devout in their faith in the face of adversity. I also think of the Christians who were oppressed and killed under the Soviet gulag, or the Jews and Christians who suffered in the Holocaust. Or the Christians/followers of other religions who are oppressed and suffer today under Communist China and other regimes that I don't know off the top of my head.

Just to throw this out here... perhaps there is an evolutionary progression to Religion, like there is in all other areas of human experience... perhaps Christianity has evolved past its infant stage, angry adolescent stage, and is now in a more amicable adult stage... and perhaps Islam just hasn't evolved that far yet... my thoughts on this idea are incoherrent, I know, but it's something I've fleetingly thought about a time or two.

Mr. Twisted said...

Muse - I was going to reply to your comment, then I realized I had just read an article that talks about a lot of the things you brought up. Very interesting, if you have the time to read it.

Just go here: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-carroll092601.shtml

Not necessarily saying that those are my exact sentiments, I just thought it fit nicely with the discussion.